Paolo Marchetti won the 2015 Alexia Foundation Professional Grant for his project The Pricy of Vanity. Marchetti writes in his proposal, “there is a long list of animals whose existence is destined for the industrial sector of high fashion and all of these species are condemned to intensive farming for the production of clothes with furs, feathers or leather.” His project has already covered animal skin farms in Colombia and Poland and will begin the documentation of farms in Thailand and other places.
Alexia Foundation: Why did you start working on this project?
I will never forget the ease with which a man can kill an animal, the desperate cries of the animals, the smells and the silence that follows the sacrifice.
Paolo Marchetti: I began to reflect on the concept of legality and ethical aspects concerning the responsibility of the common citizen toward the law itself. Our society is structured in such a way that the concept of right and wrong is often clouded, not only by interests but by the mental, cultural and ideological alibis and superstructures that Man has devised in favor of gaining money without any remorse.
Humanity has committed the most profound mistakes of which we were capable of in the name of work, development, and ideologies. I remain stunned by the concept of legality, not from the point of view of content and structure of the laws, but rather of the lack of empathy and ethics.
Big fashion brands attempt to demonstrate a respect for the animal kingdom and to give to their work an aura of legality and profound ethics by deciding to work only with farms that meet certain standards. This is proof that humanity needs to determine what is right and what is wrong.
High fashion tries to hide the ghosts under the mantle of the laws by exercising the right to do what they want on the pretext of professionalism, excluding the conscience of the individual who also shares the same planet. On the other hand, the citizen confines himself to exercise his right to be simply a buyer, not wondering about the history of the products he buys.
So no matter how monstrous or harmful the work of humanity is, it only matters that it is in accordance with the law. This is the reason why I chose to cover legal factory farming, with the aim to raise awareness, first for buyers and then everyone else.
I believe that the revolution can begin with ourselves because, as long as we will face ourselves with the instruments of the law, we will never make changes. We have to take the responsibility of being a living part of our world and stop delegating solutions to the law. We already know that it does not work.
Alexia Foundation: Tell me about the places you have been photographing? How did you find them and get access?
Marchetti: Locating factory farming and getting permission to document was the most complicated challenge on my entire path as a photojournalist. This was the result of a frantic search, and thanks to the support of friends, colleagues and other personal contacts, I’m managing to build one chapter after another. It’s an unparalleled body of work and I hope that it will encourage us to think.
Basically I want to add a question to an effective debate that has been shelved. I will not provide answers. I’m not in that position. But I think it’s right to wonder.
I immediately realized that I would have to give to the whole project a global significance, so I decided to structure the project covering this topic with consistency of content and geography.
Until now I have been working in Colombia, documenting the intensive farming of crocodiles. Later I worked in Poland, photographing minks. I’m about to finish my third chapter concerning ostriches in Thailand, thanks to the Alexia Foundation grant. I plan to add chapters in the future, but I prefer not to talk about it because I’m still in preparation.
Alexia Foundation: What’s one moment you won’t forget from this story?
Marchetti: I will never forget the ease with which a man can kill an animal, the desperate cries of the animals, the smells and the silence that follows the sacrifice.
I will not forget those endless moments before falling asleep in the evening, after spending whole days to document my fellow men, who in the name of work, forget themselves and their belonging.
Alexia Foundation: What’s been the most challenging part of this project?
Marchetti: I had to face the enormous challenge of getting access every time but the most difficult aspect is my comparison with this specific reality, which by nature, I am not able to tolerate. To put myself in those situations was a challenge but also a violence toward myself. Yet by channeling that frustration in every photograph, I managed to do my best in this work.
Once again, photography has been a channel of expression to culminate in information for the people and at the same time the shield I needed to locate a good reason to be there, in front of a reality that we would never want to face.
Alexia Foundation: What would you like to do with the project? Where do you see it going?
Marchetti: This is a project that documents vanity as the trigger of this massacre, and the total failure of Man towards Mother Nature. This story highlights the prevarication of man against himself. There are many stories that are consuming at this time, capable of expressing all this, but I always wanted to build a body of work dedicated to the protection of our planet and, at the same time, to make an anthropological analysis of the reasons for such abuse.